Saturday, December 7, 2013

Disney Princesses: Who Would Win in A Fight?

Disney princesses have a complicated job. They have to sing, dance, and look pretty. All at the same time. Not to mention those wimpy princes who constantly need saving
from things like water
and snow
and people who really prefer to live in harmony with nature
Sure, they're all good at defending the people they care about. But what would happen if we pitted them against each other? Walt Disney Studios themselves is afraid to know the answer. Pick up any piece of Official Disney Princess merchandise. You'll notice the princesses never make eye contact. Disney wants them to remain unaware of each others' existence.

Until Frozen. Not only do we have two princesses sharing a movie, but you can catch Rapunzel if you know where to look.

This means the Disney princesses share a universe. This means they have the potential to join forces and wage war. This means I'm faced with a difficult decision. Which five princesses to I want by my side in my quest for world domination?
5. Pocahontas

She learned the entire English language in about six seconds. That's a valuable skill as a diplomat. Hey, there's more than one way to conquer a kingdom.
4. Cinderella

I have a feeling she's a lot more cunning than we realize. A scullery maid marrying a prince? When dozens of trained court flirts have tried for his hand? She also has a band of eerily loyal mice minions who do her menial work and break her out of prison. In the original fairy tale, she orders her avian air force to peck out her stepsisters' eyes. Don't tick of Cinderella.
3. Mulan

She's the only princess to be formally trained in combat. Need I say more?
2. Rapunzel

Mulan has a sword, yes, but she only uses it as a mirror or a hair cutting tool. Rapunzel knocks out a man with a frying pan. Plus, she's a medic. A single tear is enough to bring Flynn back from the brink of death. Cry, girl, cry!
1. Elsa

Unlike Rapunzel, she was born with combat magic. She can stop arrows in midair by throwing up ice shields. Not to mention creating clothes, shelter, and massive bodyguards from ice and snow. Oh, and she plans on living in her lonely little ice palace for the rest of her days, so apparently she can live off water vapor.
That's my five woman world domination team. Who do you want? 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

No, I didn't invent this. But I wish I did.

Time to play Mainstream YA Article Bingo
YA Article Bingo
Here's your link.
Seriously. If you don't read YA, if you're not a teenager, YA author, educator, or librarian, you don't know what you're talking about. Having a goodreads account does not make you a literary critic. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Two Problems with Crayons

1. The Labels
I get that crayola sells products in multiple countries. But really, do you need to label a crayon in more than one language?

Quick, somebody tell me what color this is. Hand an illiterate toddler a box of crayons and I think they can find the red one. Show me a box of crayons labeled only in French and I can figure out that rouge equals red.
2. This Is Not Peach

Until the Civil Rights movement hit, this color was called flesh. I get that not everyone has flesh this color. But peaches don't have flesh that color either. When I want to draw a peach, I grab pink and yellow.

Things you can actually color with a peach crayon:
We could call this crayon palomino and it would be so much more accurate. But of course, this wouldn't be a problem if we left the name off in the first place. 
Rant over.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bugs and Insects

When I was little my brother gave me a book that changed my life. It was a skinny book about bugs and insects. It didn't inspire me to become an entomologist. It didn't help me pass science tests. It didn't even help me recognize the bugs and insects in my backyard. I can't remember the author, the title, or figure out which of my cupboards it's hiding in. But I'll always remember the opening line:
All insects are bugs, but not all bugs are insects.
I'd never seen a sentence like that before. The author could've spent a paragraph ranting about how bugs and insects were NOT the same but they DO share some qualities and WHY can't the world get it right. But he didn't. He summed it up so nicely.
This sentence has helped me understand the world. When people tell me, "All members of (extremist group) are (political party) but not all (political party) are (extremist group)," I think back to that sentence. Bugs, party. Extremists, insects. Got it. And when people turn this into a multi paragraph rant I boil it down to the same.
A few years later I read The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine. It's a retelling of The Princess and the Pea. The king and queen devise a series of tests to spot a real princess. As everyone knows, princesses are delicate. So they have the girls lie on a stack of mattresses with a pea hidden underneath. And of course, princesses like flowers, so they hand them a bouquet containing exactly one weed and see if they can spot it. Naturally, princesses are perfectly proportioned, so they're all measured. One poor girl is disqualified because her waist is a fraction of an inch to wide. The queen tells her they "have to draw the line somewhere."
I'd never heard this sentence before. It described something I'd thought about a lot. When is hair long or short? When is a shade of purple blue or red? When is a group of friends a party instead of a get together? And what do you call that point where everything changes?
Levine certainly didn't invent this sentence, I just hadn't heard it yet. She probably didn't know it would be unfamiliar to an eight year old. Neither did the bug and insect guy. I'm glad they didn't or they might not have written what they did. "Draw the line" and "not all x are y" are such important concepts to understand.
When people talk about the books that changed their lives it's always some great important classical novel. And those work their magic too. But sometimes it's not a story that packs the power. It's not a theme that changes the way you view the world. Those are just the ones we remember. Simple sentences-and there so many more I'm not even consciously aware of-alter how we think.
What sentence changed your life?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Don't You Dare Read This!

Back in middle school I went to my first book club meeting. I won't name the book here for fear of spoilers. At the end of our discussion, the librarian asked us to show by raise of hand how many didn't like the book. About half the hands shot up. When she asked them why they all gave the same reason: the end was too sad. Because the main character's pet died. In the epilogue.
I felt like they were betraying the book. It wasn't as if her death was unexpected or threw the plot off course. We'd known she was sick for a while. It wasn't as if we had to watch the main character mope around for another fifty pages. The story ends a few pages after. It wasn't as if her death killed the possibility of a sequel. This was definitely a stand alone. If they loved this pet enough to mourn her death couldn't they love the book?
I've heard so many of my friends say, "The Hunger Games is great. Read the first one. Call me when you finish and I'll bring the sequel. But whatever you do, don't read Mockingjay. It's too depressing at the end."
Yes, it was. I've heard Suzanne Collins' editor called her and said, "Don't do it!" She, like millions of other readers, fell in love with this character. But they kept the death.
Mockingjay is about war. Our book club novel was about animal cruelty. A death is exactly what the plots needed to drive their points home. These deaths were supposed to pack an emotional wallop, and did they deliver.
I believe that a good book is one that can make you laugh and cry. And after spending so much time on book review sites like goodreads, I believe a good reviewer is one who recognizes that. You need to recognize a book as more than just a bundle of emotions. If the an author can make you invested in a character, if a death scene is hauntingly beautiful, then it's not a bad book. Even if it makes you feel bad.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Romeo and Juliet

Top Five Things I Liked About Romeo and Juliet
1. Hailee Steinfeld
Juliet's two weeks shy of turning fourteen. Yet she's usually portrayed by actresses in their twenties. Steinfeld's only sixteen, so (A) she looks the way Shakespeare would want her to (B) the wedding night scene isn't so icky. Thank you, child protection laws.
2. Costumes!
The Capulet's color is blue and the Montagues are red. But Romeo is usually shown in blue, symbolizing his connection to Juliet. She's wearing pink in the balcony scene when they really start to fall in love. By the end of the movie, she's in red, symbolizing her connection to Romeo. Or blood and death and gore. Take your pick.
3. Rosaline speaks!
She had to be something special if Romeo liked her first. Lots of directors don't even cast Rosaline. Shakespeare didn't bother to give her any lines. In this version, she gets to speak twice or thrice.
4. Subtle puns
My friends and I laughed so much more than the group next to us. It pays to be familiar with Shakespeare.
Them: "Oh, Romeo's talking about pilgrims while holding Juliet's hand."
Us: "Yeah, you go on thinking that."
5. Benvolio
Just look at the guy.
Kodi Smit-McPhee Picture
Other Things
1. Nice Mama
In the play, Lady Capulet keeps the feud alive more than her husband. In this version she's all, "Oh no, sweetie, don't beat our daughter so she'll submit to marriage."
2. Dead Mama
Doesn't Lady Montague get an off-screen death? She's quite alive in the final scene.
3. Mercutio
He's such a goofball in the play. In this movie, he wanders around looking for a fight.
Quick story: In ninth grade, my English teacher let some boys act out the fencing scene. It's still one of the most hilarious things I've seen. So here we've got three boys, books in one hand and yardsticks in the other, trying to read and whack each other at the same time. Mercutio wasn't very happy about his death. So while Romeo and Benvolio are mourning his slaughter, the guy sits up and shouts, "I'm not dead yet!" This continued about ten minutes.
4. A Rose by any other name would Sting as Sharply
Romeo uses the roses wrapped around a pillar to reach Juliet's balcony. Um, shouldn't that hurt? He's not wearing gloves or anything. At least Juliet finally showed him another exit.
5. Billings
Look at the imdb cast list. Which name comes first? Romeo? Juliet? Or Capulet Servant Number Two?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hello, Internet!

Erica Eliza here. I have two other blogs, Teenagers These Days, where I talk about ageism and what it means to be young in today's world. If you want book reviews you can check out goodteenreads.
And this one? Well, this is where I put all my thoughts that don't fit anywhere else. Enjoy.